The Governor visits Exmouth District High School.
The Governor visits Exmouth District High School.

Exmouth Day 2: Tourism, defence and opportunities

As the coolness of the passing rains began to pass and the mist across the land drifted, the Governor found himself standing on the edge of the gorges of Cape Range National Park. The voice of Baiyungu Traditional Owner of the land, Hazel Walgar, rang out a song of welcome and acknowledgment of Country across the cliffs.

A view from the top of Cape Range National Park.

In this stunning and ancestral location, the Governor heard the stories of the inhabitants – how the impact of Krakatoa in 1883 saw a tsunami land and wipe out many of the original people. Since then, the land was taboo to local cultures and many refused to enter it. It is only in recent years that the Baiyungu have begun to return.

The Governor enjoys a quiet moment with Hazel Walgar and her husband.The Governor enjoys a quiet moment with Hazel Walgar and her husband.

Ms Walger, owner and operator of Baiyungu Dreaming cultural tours, is on a mission to maintain this ancient history and share it with all who are willing to learn – inviting people to view this country as she does. Alongside this fledgling business, Ms Walger is a local elder and is spearheading research into the historical significance of the land. The Governor was fascinated to hear of the many relics that have been uncovered, including that of the jawbone of a Tasmanian Tiger and evidence of fish being cooked in fire pits dating back over 15,000 years.

Oceans of opportunities

The Governor chats with student leaders.The Governor chats with student leaders.

From the old to the new, the Governor took a trip to Exmouth District High School where he met with Principal Marcus Gianatti, other staff and a variety of student leaders. During the official tour, the Governor was invited to visit classes and chat with students about their experiences. The Year 5 and 6 class excitedly asked questions about the Governor’s experiences in Exmouth before insisting on meeting his accompanying staff so that they too could be quizzed on their jobs. During the next class visit, a Year 2 group wanted to talk about how they spent their school holidays and their hopes and dreams for the future.

The Year 5 quiz the Governor.The Year 5 class quiz the Governor.

After all that walking it was time for lunch. Gathered in a circle on the grassy centre of the school, student leaders from across the grades impressed the Governor with their insightful questions, spanning everything from his time as Defence Minister, Ambassador to the US and his current role along with his opinions on defence, tourism, women’s rights and his personal experiences.

Vacuuming the skies

The Governor hears of the science behind the build of this unique telescope.The Governor hears of the science behind the build of this unique telescope.

After enlightening discussions with students at Exmouth District High School, it was time to reach for the stars at the Harold E. Holt Base. Met by Mr Tom Leach, Raytheon engineer, the Governor was taken into the Space Surveillance Telescope dome where he was schooled on the extensive process that lead to its existence in Western Australia. The f/1, three and a half metre telescope is so precise it can focus on half the diameter of a human hair, in L.E.O (low earth orbit).

The Governor was thrilled to finally see the telescope.

With a joint science and defence mission – to both ‘vacuum the skies’ of man-made debris whilst also keeping an eye out for and tracking missiles, jets and asteroids – the US/Australian project is truly one-of-a-kind.

Bigger on the inside

The Harold E. Holt Base is a joint Australian and United States naval communications station 6 kilometres north of Exmouth. Operated entirely by Raytheon Australia staff, under contract to the Maritime Strategic Communications System Program Office (Capability & Acquisition Sustainment Group) in Canberra, the base serves to communicate with US and Australian submarines.

The only photo we were allowed to take at this part of the base.Strictly no photography was allowed once the Governor stepped through these doors.

A field of towers and wires, the building is pretty much unchanged since the day it was built in 1965. The unique blend of Naval styling with mid-century futuristic Americana makes for an interesting blend – straight out of the Cold War interior design era guide book. The real fascination is not with the gallery of submarine images or the Flash Gordon and Star Trek-esque workstations, the real point of interest is behind closed doors.

Outside of the base.

Housed in giant aluminium foil lined rooms are scenes that a Dalek wouldn’t look out of place in. Technology developed back in the 1950s still stands today as the best way to deliver to coded communications to submarines across the world.

Redeveloping Exmouth’s tourist trade

Stunning views, a world-heritage listed reef, crystal blue waters and outstanding fishing locations, there’s only one thing missing – enough accommodation to meet the tourist demand.

Looking out over the old Lighthouse Caravan Park.Looking out over the old Lighthouse Caravan Park.

After the creation of the Harold E. Holt communications base, the Ningaloo Lighthouse was deemed redundant and was retired from use. An investor purchased the land and created a caravan park. Unfortunately, the accommodation available is asbestos ridden and no longer suitable for use. Enter the Tattarang group.

The old lighthouse.The old lighthouse is now a popular place for tourists to watch the sunset.

The Tattarang group, one of Australia’s largest investment groups, is committed to conservation and tourism investment, as well as growing indigenous engagement and employment, and has set up shop at the old Ningaloo Lighthouse. The $85 million Ningaloo Lighthouse Resort development is located on the edge of the pristine Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area. The development will offer a range of family-friendly accommodation options for over 500 guests, including high-end luxury villas, lodges and hotel rooms, as well as glamping and caravan facilities, to suit many types of traveller.

The Governor reviews rendered artwork of the new development.The Governor reviews rendered artwork of the new development.

The Governor was given the opportunity to walk the land, view the renders of the proposed designs and discuss the plans with General Manager Hospitality Alan Ford, Project Lead Daniel Griffin and North West Engagement Manager Juliane Bush.

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